Variety: It’s the Spice!

Our concert on September 24th is going to be a celebration of musical variety — a daring departure from organization and the expected! Not only is everything on the program a secret, but even the musicians don’t know the order the concert will be performed in.

Ordinarily, we use articles in our Manitou-Zine to fill you in on what will be performed in upcoming programs — insight into the composers who wrote the music, their inspiration for the pieces, and descriptions of what you can expect to hear. For Variety: It’s the Spice!, you’ll get none of that! It’s a complete surprise!

Variety Poster

But, since we don’t want to leave you completely in the dark, we’ve promised to provide you with a few clues along the way. The concert order will be decided by audience members participating in a game. Following that same logic, the clues we’re providing you will be in the form of a game: a crossword puzzle!

Click HERE for your free printable crossword puzzle!

Stay tuned to our Facebook Page & this website; we’ll be sharing the puzzle’s key soon.

crossword clues

Our kudos to anyone who can complete the puzzle without consulting Google (or a member of Manitou Winds!). No cheating! So, put on those thinking caps and see if you can guess a few of the pieces on September’s program!

Lines & Spaces II

Lines and SpacesIn our second recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the lines and spaces of the musical staff to uncover what savory surprises we can experience when we use simple ingredients to create a masterpiece.

Lines & Spaces

Our first variation spins our lines and spaces in a brand new, green direction — replacing meat with leafy Swiss chard and coarsely chopped onions for a lighter lasagna that still delivers the warm-fuzzies we all expect from comfort food.

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Swiss Chard — With an earthy, non-bitter taste, the greens and colorful stems of Swiss chard add nutrition and deep flavor that plays so well with tomato sauce, you won’t miss the meat! If you buy frozen greens, be sure to defrost and squeeze them dry before putting them into the skillet. Can’t find Swiss chard? You can substitute equal amounts of spinach or kale to get a slightly different flavor profile, but an equally tasty dish.

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Swiss Chard Lasagna
Serves 4
Easily one of my favorite ways to eat leafy greens! Remember to squeeze dry frozen greens before adding them to the recipe. If you’re using fresh greens, you’ll want to keep the chopped stems separate so you can saute them first to make sure they’re tender before adding in the greens to wilt.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Swiss Chard Lasagna1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled plum tomatoes with juices
8 no-boil lasagna noodles
8 oz whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella, shredded

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, onion, and chard stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in chard leaves, season with salt, and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe skillet; return to medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juices and simmer; simmer, breaking into pieces, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles, 3/4 cup sauce, one-third of chard mixture, and 1 cup cheese. Repeat layering twice. Top with remaining noodles, sauce, and cheese. Loosely cover with parchment-lined foil (keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil!). Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly and delightfully browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

Lines & Spaces I

Lines & Spaces

Within the five lines and four spaces of a staff, a composer creates all manner of beauty and complexity. Everything the composer wants to communicate to both the musician and the audience is condensed into the staves on the page. Whether summoning all the colors of a full orchestra or the singular artistry of a solo instrument; it’s all contained within those lines and spaces.

Lines and Spaces

For our second Theme & Variations recipe collection, we take our cue from the staff to make a delicious composition of our own in the kitchen using everyone’s favorite comfort food as our theme: lasagna!

Today’s recipe is what most people imagine when they think of lasagna: layers of hearty meat sauce alternating with luscious lasagna noodles and a tempting mixture of cheeses. It’s a recipe with a fancy look but humble origins — you can find everything you need in almost any grocery store (some of it’s probably already in your kitchen!).

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: No-Boil Lasagna Noodles — Homemade lasagna doesn’t get more convenient than a package of no-boil lasagna sheets. Unlike the traditional lasagna noodles which need to be par-cooked before you layer them into the casserole dish, no-boil or “oven-ready” noodles can go right into the casserole dish. They cook while the casserole bakes, absorbing liquid and flavors from everything around them. Barilla is probably the brand easiest to spot.

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Classic Lasagna
Serves 4
Unlike traditional lasagna recipes with pre-boiled noodles filling a gigantic pan of sauce and cheese to meld together in the oven, this smaller four-serving casserole goes into the oven with very little babysitting required. The hardest part is letting it cool for 20 minutes before digging in.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oilClassic Lasagna
8 ounces mild Italian sausage, casings removed (or 8 ounces lean ground beef or turkey)
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 14.5-ounce cans whole tomatoes with juice
salt and pepper
8 ounces whole or part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (plus more for garnish)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just shimmering. Add the Italian sausage; cook and crumble until evenly browned and no pink remains. Using a slotted spoon, remove crumbled sausage to a plate. To the skillet, add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, oregano, and thyme; cook, stirring, just until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the canned tomatoes, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir and crush the tomatoes into mixture; bring to a low boil and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes until slightly thickened; season with salt and pepper to taste. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, parsley, grated Parmesan, and half of the mozzarella. Season to Classic Lasagnataste with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles centered in the dish (the noodles will expand quite a bit during cooking and cover all the way to the edges). Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture atop the noodles and top with 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Repeat layers with the remaining noodles, cheese, and sauce. Top the entire casserole with the reserved shredded mozzarella cheese and additional chopped parsley as desired. Loosely cover with parchment then top with foil to seal (keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil!). Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly and slightly browned on top, about 15 minutes more. Let cool 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

Musical Fruit III

Musical FruitFor our first recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the musical fruit (beans!) by starting with a very basic recipe and then expanding its flavor horizons a bit…

The Musical Fruit

Our theme was a Cajun-inspired pot of red beans and rice, last week we turned that theme into a Tex-Mex number with chorizo and peppers. Our final variation on the theme abandons flashy spices but still provides a show-stopping performance through a touch of elegance and subtlety.

Once again, we’ll swap out the beans; this time replacing them with navy beans. Instead of cured or heavily-seasoned meat, we’ll impart deep flavors by adding dark meat chicken and an all-star cast of herbs and spices. We’ll transform the recipe into a hearty dinner reminiscent of cassoulet (but with a lot less time and effort!).

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Lemon Juice — Though it’s one of the handiest kitchen appliances ever invented, filling your home with amazing aromas, a slow cooker can sometimes turn even the most flavorful ingredients a tad bland and flat. To sharpen those flavors a bit, add a hit of lemon juice for a spark to reawaken the herbal flavors; you’ll probably find you’ll need less salt too.

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Braised Chicken Thighs with White Beans
Serves 4
Even if you aren’t a fan of eating the skin, browning dark meat chicken and allowing the skin to cook along inside the slow cooker infuses everything in the pot with a deep chicken flavor. This is a very easy but elegant dinner.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 bone-in chicken thighs (app. 1.5 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
White Beans with Braised Chicken Thighs1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 large celery ribs, finely chopped
1 cup dried navy or cannellini beans, rinsed and sorted
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and Pepper
4 cups cooked basmati rice (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, sprinkle the chicken pieces on all sides with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the seasoned chicken pieces to the skillet skin side down; cook 3-5 minutes or until just browned. Turn and cook an additional 2 minutes or until lightly browned on the underside.

Meanwhile, in the slow cooker, combine the next 10 ingredients (onion through chicken broth). Place the browned chicken thighs atop the bean mixture, nestling them into the broth but not submerging them. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or until beans are sufficiently tender.

If you’d like to crisp the skin on the braised chicken before serving, remove the chicken pieces to a broiler pan and place them beneath the broiler for about 2 minutes; otherwise just remove to a plate and keep warm. Meanwhile, using a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of cooked bean mixture to a medium mixing bowl; mash with a fork to form a paste. Stir the mashed beans back into the slow cooker to thicken the beans. Stir in the lemon juice; add salt and pepper to taste.

If serving with rice, divide the cooked rice evenly onto four plates. Top with the beans, and serve the chicken atop the beans. Served without rice, this goes excellently with toasted baguette pieces or a side salad.

Musical Fruit II

Musical FruitFor our first recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the musical fruit (beans!) by starting with a very basic recipe and then expanding its flavor horizons a bit…

The Musical Fruit

Our first variation on the theme crackles with color and fiery flavors! We’ll swap out the red beans and replace them with pinto beans… and that’s just the beginning. We’ll transform the dish into a Tex-Mex style pot of beans that’s just this side of chili, but I think you’ll agree this particular bowl of beans has a lot more going for it than the average chili!

If you’re afraid this variation will be too spicy for you, removing half or all of the seeds from the jalapeño will significantly lower the heat level. Or, you could opt for a still flavorful but milder chili pepper such as an Anaheim or Poblano. Or, you could leave out the green chili pepper altogether and still have a zesty pot of beans.

Today’s variation is right at home served atop rice, but you might enjoy it even more served with cornbread. I’ve included my maple-sweetened version, below, to tame the heat a bit!

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Mexican Chorizo — Unlike the dried and cured Spanish variety, Mexican chorizo is a spicy ground meat sausage most commonly sold fresh and uncooked. You’ll find it with other raw meats or sausages at the grocery store. Whether made with pork or beef, most versions are bright or dark red in color due to the paprika and other seasonings inside. While cooking, it releases brightly-colored, flavorful juices you can use to sauté vegetables like a boss!

Just joining in? Here’s the theme recipe for this series: Cajun-Style Red Beans & Ham

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Tex-Mex Pinto Beans with Chorizo
Serves 4
Can’t stand the heat? Remove some or all of the seeds of the jalapeño or use a milder chili pepper such as an Anaheim. If you can’t find smoked paprika, regular paprika is also tasty in this dish. Slide a slice of cornbread alongside and dig in (easy cornbread recipe below).

8 ounces Mexican-style chorizo
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño chili, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely choppedTex-Mex Pinto Beans with Chorizo
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried pinto beans, sorted and sorted
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 14.5-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes, with juices
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, crumble the chorizo; cook until browned, breaking into smaller pieces while stirring. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked chorizo to the slow cooker. To the juices in the skillet, add the chopped onion and jalapeño; cook, stirring occasionally, just until softened. Add the chopped bell peppers; cook, stirring until just softened. Pour the vegetable mixture into the slow cooker along with any remaining juices.

Add 2 cups of water and the remaining ingredients (except the cilantro); stir to combine. Cover with lid, cook on high 5 hours or until beans are thoroughly tender.

Using a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of cooked bean mixture to a medium mixing bowl; mash with a fork to form a paste. Stir the mashed beans back into the slow cooker to thicken the beans. Add salt to taste.

To serve, divide evenly into four shallow serving bowls, top with cilantro.

* Uncle Jason’s Maple Cornbread
Serves 8

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flourUncle Jason's Maple Cornbread
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish or muffin pan with cooking spray. (Can also be baked in a preheated, 10-inch iron skillet lightly brushed with oil)

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, maple syrup, egg, and melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the cornmeal mixture; stirring just until combined.

Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake at 425-degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown in baking pan, 15-20 minutes in iron skillet; 15-20 minutes in muffin pan.

Musical Fruit I

Musical Fruit

For our first collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the musical fruit (beans!) by starting with a very basic recipe and then expanding its flavor horizons a bit.

Musical Fruit

Beans have a reputation that is only partly deserved. Sure, they can be pretty hum-drum and they have an undeniably unavoidable side effect, but with a few choice ingredients and a hands-off approach thanks to the slow cooker, you can have an exciting, hearty (not to mention affordable) meal on the dinner table any night of the week!

Being a South Louisiana native, this first “theme” recipe is near and dear to me since it features the bold tastes of Cajun cuisine. All of the ingredients are easy to find. If you can’t find a salt-free Cajun seasoning blend, I’ve provided my personal recipe at the bottom.

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Mirepoix is a mix of aromatic vegetables (traditionally onions, carrots, and celery) forming the base of many soups and stews. The Cajun version of mirepoix replaces carrots with zesty green bell pepper. Be sure to chop the vegetables finely so that they nearly melt away during the cooking time, flavoring the whole dish.

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Cajun-Style Red Beans & Ham
Serves 4
No matter how far you are from the Mason-Dixon line, this simple slow cooker dish features pantry staples sure to be available anywhere. A savory ham hock will flavor the beans perfectly, so don’t be tempted to add salt until after the beans have cooked.

1 cup dried red kidney beans, rinsed and sorted
1 large onion, finely choppedCajun-Style Red Beans with Ham
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 large celery ribs, finely chopped
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt-free Cajun seasoning blend*
1 bay leaf
1 large ham hock or a 6-7 ounce chunk of bone-in ham

Combine all the ingredients with 3 cups water in a slow cooker. Cover with lid, cook on high 5 hours or until beans are thoroughly tender.

Remove the ham hock or ham to a cutting board, allow to cool. Using a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of cooked bean mixture to a medium mixing bowl; mash with a fork to form a paste. Stir the mashed beans back into the slow cooker to thicken the beans. Pick the ham from the bone, discarding fat and bone. Shred ham with fork and return it to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve beans atop a bed of fresh-cooked rice, top with finely-sliced green onion or parsley.

* Uncle Jason’s No-Salt Cajun Blend
Yields approximately 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Use immediately or store in an airtight container. I keep a bunch of this in a bottle in my spice cabinet. Try it on eggs, vegetables — just about anything, actually. It’s also an essential ingredient for blackening chicken or fish.

Dancing in the Sky

This post was written in preparation for our May 2017 concert, Music Speaks

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

Our concert, May 27th, will showcase music from many different genres and styles — from traditional wind quintets in the Classical tradition to modern works and American folk tunes for all sorts of combinations of instruments. While the oldest work on the program premiered in 1830, the newest work will be receiving its world premiere!

We’re very excited and honored to premiere another chamber work by our friend and fellow ensemble member, Laura Hood. In her latest work, Sky Dance, Laura composed both the music and the lyrics, arranging for flute, clarinet, ukulele, guitar, harp, and a very special mother-daughter vocal duet (sung by Laura and her daughter, Jessie Hood).

I recently chatted with Laura about her latest chamber work to get some insider information on the upcoming premiere:

So, where did you get the inspiration for this new piece? Are there any particular memories attached to Sky Dance?

The basic song structure was actually written over ten years ago. I was on a spring camping trip with some Leelanau School students on North Manitou Island. We’d all just finished a very intimate, moving council on gratitude, and I was sitting on the beach, watching the light change during sunset. That’s when I first jotted down some of the main lyrical ideas in my little journal.

“So quietly, in the gentle hour,
IMG_5299the hour of blue,
When the sky meets the earth, and where they join, there is you.
Suspensions of the day, they are resolved, the root holds on and the tonic remains true.”

— from Sky Dance
Laura Hood (b. 1961)

Our concert program explores the connection between music and words. Several lines from your lyrics marry musical terms with natural imagery — I love the masterful mixing of metaphors you’ve made here! A lot of the music on the concert program tells a story or evokes a specific scene. Were you also hoping to tell a story or paint a scene with this piece?

I think of it as more of a scene than a story. The first part of Sky Dance is about the tender and intimate moments of dusk; the delicate transition between light and darkness. It’s about this fine line where everything becomes very real. I wanted the vocal lines here to be subtle and low, so the supporting instrumentation is quite transparent too. Then the song transitions into the safety and celebration of nighttime — a dance party with the Aurora Borealis. Here, everyone is playing in a fun 5/4 time — each instrument and the voices all have their own part to play in the celebration.

As I was working on the scoring, my husband Bruce shared with me a chapter from The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, called “Sky Dance”. It was about the intricate mating ritual dance the woodcock does in springtime right at dusk. The male bird establishes his territory on the ground, spirals up into the sky, and then tumbles back to the ground to begin again. It’s just be another example of the kind of magic happening during those precious moments of transition at the end of the day.

Sky Dance“Let the night enfold you.
Let it lift you into the sky.
In darkness all of your shadows disappear,
your soul is free, no chains of fear.
And you can dance and you can sing.”

— from Sky Dance
Laura Hood

You mentioned this piece began over ten years ago. I imagine time has changed some of the meaning of the lyrics for you — probably also the music itself. While scoring it for a chamber group, did you find translating that original vision into printed music a challenge? Did it change your vision?

It was a fun challenge to score one of my songs for a group rather than just solo guitar and voice. First of all, I had to notate the vocal parts which are very unstructured and folk-y. That was probably the hardest part and — at times — it felt like I was First Flightputting my melody into a box where it didn’t belong.

The flute and clarinet parts added a whole new challenge and dimension to the song — possibilities I had not thought about before. Since I’m a brass player, it took me a couple of tries to write parts that were not only fun for Sam and Anne to play, but also helped to create the sound I was hoping for.

Then came the harp part, which I usually approach much like a bass part (but with many possibilities for pizzaz). I knew that if I gave you a chord structure, you would come up with something cool more or less on your own, so all I had to provide was an outline for the harp.

Maybe rather than changing, I guess you could say your vision expanded! Performing your music is always such a treat because the music is challenging and yet not nearly so rigid as typical chamber music. We’re often invited to change our parts in subtle and not-so-subtle ways — there’s definitely that element of improvisation you naturally expect of us!

I feel so fortunate to work with you, Sam, and Anne. You’re able to play anything I write, you’re willing to give me suggestions, add your own ideas to the music. It was an amazing process to hear the notes I wrote on a piece of paper just spring to life, creating what I think is a really cool piece. I feel humbled and honored by this whole process.

The honor is certainly ours! We’re grateful you share your music with us — not to mention your great horn and guitar playing! For this upcoming concert, our audience will also get to hear Da Sista Hood with Jason Mudgettyou sing for the first time — your daughter Jessie, as well, will be performing with us for the first time. Can you tell us more about your musical work with Jessie?

Jessie and I have been playing music together for about three years as Da Sista Hood, playing at local establishments and for events and fundraisers in the area. It’s been fun to work as musical colleagues, creating the sweet harmonies that just come from blending voices of the same family. Matching tone and timbre just comes Da Sista Hood with Jason Mudgettnaturally for mother and daughter, so we’re able to focus on the sweetness of the harmonies, our inflection and interpretation of the lines. I’m continuously amazed by Jessie’s poise, her musicianship, and her ability to learn new material. I’m of course very proud of her and thankful for opportunities to share music together — including this premiere performance.

We hope you’ll join us for this one-of-a-kind premiere of another original work by Laura Hood.

Conferring with the Sun

This post was written in preparation for our May 2017 concert, Music Speaks

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

Words were created to communicate. Whether spoken or written, we need words to translate, convey, and make sense of our own experiences. Still, words are powerful but limited; they can tell us about an experience, but words themselves are not an experience.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve examined how music embodies its own wordless language of storytelling through sound and its interaction with our personal memories or daydreams. When music and words unite, however, a bit of transformation occurs. You might say music has the ability to transform words, briefly, into an experience.

Sun Songs by Jenni Brandon (b. 1977) collects sacred poetry from three different Native American tribes, examining their beautiful and harmonious relationship with the earth. The work — a seamless song cycle containing three songs — is written for soprano, English horn, cello, and piano and demonstrates Jenni’s transcendent flair for “tone painting”. I contacted Jenni, recently, and she graciously told me more about these texts, their significance, and how she chose them.

Many of Jenni’s works are directly inspired by nature or our interactions with it. “I had recently gotten a book of Native American prose and poetry (The Winged Serpent),” Jenni explains. “The book inspired me to look deeper into the lives of Native American people. Theirs was and is collection of cultures that honors the earth, sun, sky — all of nature. The idea of telling a story from their perspective (in a modern art song) really appealed to me.”

Nootka Sun MaskI. Song to bring fair weather
You, whose day it is, make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow colors.
So it will be beautiful.

— translated by Frances Densmore (1867-1957)
from Nootka and Quileute Music

Jenni assembled texts from three different Native American tribes, choosing their relationship with the sun as her focal point for telling a story. “I was interested in telling a story of the sun – of their respect for it and the Earth, and the notion of honoring the land,” says Jenni. “Even though these tribes were far apart (geographically) and maybe never crossed paths, I think it’s powerful that their conception of the sun and their honoring of the sun and nature is so similar. It’s a recognition that distance and time may separate us, but our feelings about the land and our love of it are often the same, even today.”

II. Song to pull down the clouds
IMG_3333At the edge of the world
It is growing light.
Up rears the light.
Just yonder the day dawns.
Spreading over the night.

— translated by Ruth Underhill (1883-1984)
from Singing for Power

Understandably, some modern ethnomusicologists dismiss the works of early anthropologists and musicologists. On the surface, it can appear many of those early scholars sought to define native music using western terminology, forcing it into standard forms and categories rather than studying it and documenting it in its organic state.

Ruth UnderhillAs pioneers in their field, however, they simply lacked the extensive knowledge of worldwide ancient cultures and the flexible musical lexicon that evolved in the decades following their discoveries. In truth, pioneers such as Frances Denmore, Ruth Underhill, and Leslie Spier are largely responsible for the survival of the often extant information we have about many Native American tribes which had already begun to vanish in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

What early scholars clearly understood and emphasized was that song had an important place in many Native American cultures. Their cultural practices combined words and music in ways that extended well beyond our fairly simplistic modern labels of secular and sacred.

III. A PrayerPapago-Woman
Sun, my relative
Be good coming out
Do something good for us.

Make me work,
So I can do anything in the garden
I hoe, I plant corn, I irrigate.

You, sun, be good going down at sunset
We lay down to sleep I want to feel good.

While I sleep you come up.
Go on your course many times.
Make good things for us.

Make me always the same as I am now.

— translated by Leslie Spier (1893-1961)
from Havasupai Enthography

Not only bridging miles by bringing together the poetry of these three unique tribes, Jenni seamlessly combined their songs into an uninterrupted journey from dramatic daybreak to dusk. From the first note to the last, there is no significant break or pause in the work. The voices of the native poets blend into one another.

Jenni says she often likes to tell a single coherent story by combining different texts and then using the common themes within each to link them together as a whole.

“There’s one line that really makes me feel these texts were meant to be together: ‘Make me always the same as I am now.’ The author talks of wanting to ‘feel good’, and I think of the feeling IMG_1767many of us get at a sunrise or sunset – the feeling of infinite possibility, that everything is going to be okay. I think this line captures the spirit of the work, and — to me — brings sunlight into what can be a dark and angry world. If we hold onto this good feeling, this sense of loving the land — finding the goodness in a sunrise/sunset — then we will do what we need to do in order to keep that feeling alive, to make us the same in that moment of happiness, even when times are hard and challenging.”

While studying the English horn part and rehearsing and discussing this enthralling chamber work with our special guests (Emily Curtin Culler, soprano, Jean Coonrod, cello, and Susan Snyder, piano), I’ve noticed that same line has stood out as significant for me as well. Colored by Jenni’s musical framing while still maintaining its pure word form, the line becomes an elemental statement of both gratitude and hope. What better way to express both simultaneously than to wish a feeling or moment would never end?

IMG_5309

In this unique combination of timbres which melds together in stunning warmth and remarkable expressiveness, Jenni Brandon has transformed simple but sacred words into a profound experience. We invite you to join us as we follow the sun on its journey from daybreak to dusk.

Image/Photo Credits
1. Rogers Road, © 2016 by Margie Guyot (Manitou Winds 2017 collaborating artist).
2. Bella Coola Sun Mask, Nootka mask art, Nitinaht Lake, British Columbia. (Nancy Sue & Judson C. Ball Collection of Native American Art).
3. Sunrise Over East Traverse Bay, © 2011 by J.T. McKinney.
4. Ceremony Sun Dance, original artwork by David Joaquin of Two Hawk Studio. (Quote by Ruth Underhill, Singing for Power: The Song Magic of the Papago Indians, © 1938 by University of Arizona Press).
5. Tohono O’odham (Papago) Woman, © 1907 by Edward S. Curtis.
6. Sunset at Pyramid Point, © 2016 by James Deaton.
7. Sunset on Good Harbor Bay, © 2012 by J.T. McKinney.

A Bunch of Nonsense?

This post was written in preparation for our May 2017 concert, Music Speaks

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

We’ve been discussing for the past few weeks how music can enliven poetry and prose — bringing out hidden meanings from the words, engaging the listener beyond what the naked words ever could. But, when the words are basically nonsense, can the reverse occur? Can a composer use words to play with music rather than using music to play with words?

I happened upon Two Songs for Tenor and Wind Quintet and the music of David Jones (b. 1990) while Manitou Winds was still in rehearsal for our debut appearance in 2015. My chance encounter was David Jones, composerthanks to the modern wonders of internet searching. I was brainstorming for ideas and asked the ether of cyberspace for music written for vocalist and wind quintet. Thanks to the internet, discovering undiscovered and unpublished student composers is easier than ever.

David was about to graduate with his Bachelor of Musical Arts in Composition from Brigham Young University-Idaho when I first got in touch with him back in 2015. He’s now received his Master of Music Composition and is presently a graduate teaching assistant at BYU in Provo, Utah. Among his influences, he credits Stravinsky, Debussy, Hindemith, and Holst for shaping his motive-driven style. His brilliant settings of these two songs actually began as a light bit of competition.

“I wrote each of these pieces for two separate art song competition recitals put on by the voice faculty at BYU-Idaho,” David recalled. “The assignment for the first was to write something light or humorous since the recital was being held on April Fools’ Day.”

For a light and humorous subject, David consulted the poetry of Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), selecting Jabberwocky for his text. David says it was the “creative vocabulary” of Carroll’s poetry that initially drew him to it. “The light mood in which Carroll presents what could be considered a fairly dark topic appealed to me, so I sought to capture that in the nature of the music,” David says.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

JabberwockyAnd as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

— “Jabberwocky”
from Through the Looking-Glass (1871) by Lewis Carrol

First published in 1871 as part of Carroll’s novel Through the Looking-Glass (the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)), Jabberwocky remains one of the greatest nonsense poems ever written in English. Beneath the surface of the playful Humpty Dumpty & Alicelanguage is a tale of the heroic slaying of a terrifying beast, but somehow it’s the words that stick with folks rather than the gory details.

“It seems very pretty, but it’s rather hard to understand!… Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate.”

— Alice
from Through the Looking-Glass

David’s setting pairs the modern-day wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon) with a vocalist armed with Carroll’s playful lexicon. What results is a fantasy tale set to music. Using a central theme presented by the vocalist, David manipulates the timbres of the quintet in inventive ways, altering the theme as needed to further portray the story.

The second song was written under slightly different circumstances: another competition but slightly different rules. All of the composers were required to use the same text: The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear (1812-1888).

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Kitty! O Kitty, my love,
What a beautiful Kitty you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Kitty you are!”

The Owl and the Pussycat

Kitty said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The Owl and the Pussycat (1871)
by Edward Lear

David readily admits he was not terribly fond of the assigned poem initially. Lear’s poem, like Carroll’s, is considered a nonsense poem but — unlike Jabberwocky — the nonsense comes more from the subject of the story and the poet’s whimsical plays on words rather than extensive use of nonsense words.

Students were assigned to use different instruments or sounds to represent various characters from the poem. David uses a central theme to carry the poetry, again, however for the quintet accompaniment he employs even more colorful uses of harmony, dissonance, and instrumentation to mirror events in the poem. In his setting, we hear several quirky harmonies, lop-sided rhythms, and even a few specific animal references (e.g., when the oboist is asked to crow his reed to simulate a pig’s squeal).

We’ve been enjoying rehearsals of these whimsical pieces — delighting in the crunchy harmonies and unexpected twists. For our concert, we’ve enlisted the vocal talents of our special guest, Emily Curtin Culler, soprano. Manitou Winds is delighted to present these two original settings of classic poetry for our Music Speaks concert.

One Ambivalent Shepherd

This post was written in preparation for our May 2017 concert, Music Speaks

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

Words and music have long been intertwined going back to ancient times and continuing into our modern era of singer-songwriters. But, it was the composers of the Romantic Era (1820-1900) who began to be so moved by contemporary poetry and literature that they began to explore ways to enhance words with music — adding nuances and emotions that words alone were incapable of communicating.1

Prior to the influence of Romantic idealism, words and music often joined together in a sort of marriage of convenience. Poems were often written to fit existing melodies while musical accompaniment would be matched to a poem with little more reason than a shared meter.2 Depending on the listener’s perspective, the relationship between music and poetry was seldom more than one being a colorful delivery vehicle for the other!

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, composers began to write music that spoke to their own interests and ideals rather an aristocratic patron’s wishes. No longer at home in the lavish ballrooms of the affluent, the forefront of musical development was to be found in much more informal parties held in private homes where men and women with interests in the latest poetry, literature, art, and music would gather to perform and be entertained.1 It was in this vibrant, scintillating atmosphere that the art song (i.e. lied) was created.

Perhaps the most famous Romantic to unite music and poetry in a passionate embrace was Franz Schubert (1797-1828). In his short lifespan of a mere thirty-one years, he lived the rough-and-tumble Bohemian life of a true Romantic: abandoning a career in teaching to pursue his passion — a move which made him virtually penniless, but enabled him to write more than 600 art songs (not to mention several masterpieces in other forms).

“When one has a good poem the music comes easily, melodies just flow, so that composing is a real joy.” 1
Franz Schubert

— Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)

Schubert’s approach to writing art songs had a lasting influence on the composers who would follow. Rather than merely writing music to accompany poems, he joined poetry and music in a way that sought to make them inseparable. He purposefully bent the rules of harmony and often broke with conventional ideas of form — expanding the vocabulary of music, enabling it to speak more clearly to the listener and get at the meaning of the poetry.

Within the staves of Schubert’s art songs, music forms an intimate, sympathetic relationship with the text. When the narrator of a poem feels sadness, there is a very purposeful shift in harmony to evoke that emotion. When there is a sudden burst of joy in the text, the music has often built up to that same passionate fervor even while the text was only beginning to hint at it.

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (English: The Shepherd on the Rock), D. 965, was written in the final month of Schubert’s life and demonstrates his unique talent in marrying music and poetry. While arguably not an example of his most deeply-felt connection to a pre-existing text, Schubert was clearly showing off!3

Designed to be a showpiece for the famous operatic soprano Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann, he was instructed to write a work allowing her to express a wide range of feelings and emotions onstage. Perhaps because the clarinet was a fairly recent addition to the orchestra and yet another opportunity to add innovation, Schubert added a clarinet to the usual voice and piano combo.

For the text, Schubert wove together lines from three different poems written by two different poets. In effect, the song is divided into three fairly distinct segments. The first and third segments were excerpted from two poems written by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827) — “Der Berghirt” (The Mountain Shepherd) and “Liebesgedanken” (Thoughts of Love) — while the middle section was written by K.A. Varnhagen von Ense (1785-1858), excerpted from his poem “Nächtlicher Schall”(Nocturnal Sounds).

When on the highest cliff I stand,
gaze down into the deep valley
and sing, and sing,
the echo from the ravines
floats upwards from the dark valley
far away.

The further my voice travels,
the clearer it returns to me
from below, from below.
So far from me does my love dwell
that I yearn for her more ardently
over there, over there.

With deep grief I am consumed,
my joy is at an end;
all hope on earth has left me;
I am so lonely here,
I am so lonely here.

So longingly sounded the song in the wood,
so longingly it sounded through the night,
drawing hearts heavenwards
with wondrous power.

Spring is coming,
Spring, my joy;
now I will make ready to go journeying.

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 965
Translation by Lionel Salter

Reading the text from a purely literal stance, it seems a bit vague if not overly-dramatic. Perhaps you also sense a change in voice between the two different poets. Here, Schubert’s music masterfully fills in gaps of emotion, meaning, and time left open by the words. Through carefully-placed harmonic changes and recurring, memorable themes, Schubert unites the poetry into a single voice. Through the union of words and music, you find yourself feeling the shepherd’s longing and just as easily understanding the sudden joy and hope of springtime.

It’s a marvel that he composed a piece filled with joy and hope while suffering from the very illness that doomed him to an early death. Sadly, we don’t know whether Schubert ever heard his piece performed. He certainly couldn’t have known how enduring it would be; he died only a month after completing it, and its premiere occurred nearly two years later.

Emily Curtin Culler, Susan Snyder, & Anne Bara

The trio of soprano, clarinet, and piano are in conversation and practically dancing throughout this song — a dazzling display of dexterity and vocal agility! A work of such range and depth is demanding for all the musicians involved. Manitou Winds is excited to present this Romantic masterpiece featuring Emily Curtin Culler, soprano; Anne Bara, clarinet; and Susan Snyder, piano.

We hope you’ll join with us in celebrating the coming of spring and the unity of words and music at our spring concert.

References
1. Wright, C. (1996) “Listening to Music”, West Publishing Company; St. Paul, MN. pp. 245-249.
2. Grout, J. & Palisca, C. (2001) “A History of Western Music”, W.W. Norton & Company; New York, NY. pp. 448-449, 544-546.
3. Howell, C. (2013) “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen”; http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Apr07/Hirt_430542.htm

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